HD Road Test Review – 2016 Dodge CHALLENGER R/T Scat Pack



What is the best part of driving a near-500-horsepower car every day?

Is it the thunderclap of this 6.4-liter V8 on startup that makes you feel as powerful as Thor?  Or might it be the savage ingear power on the highway?

Or is it the sheer bloodlust feeling of all that HEMI power beneath you?  Knowing that a floored throttle -- or anywhere close -- will create a riotous crackle of engine, exhaust and squeeling tires is quite intoxicating.

For us mere mortals, driving a car with such godlike power and pricing of about $40k is the absolute dream come true.  A power-mad wet dream on wheels!

We have two videos to share of the Challenger R/T Scat Pack in action on startup and at near-track-speeds on a twisty country road.  Both showcase the Challenger as the fun and frisky musclecar of your dreams.

Omg. Listen to the Challeneger Scatpack fire up

Posted by Car Revs Daily on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

 

 

EXTERIOR

The Challenger is having a big moment in 2017.  No changes to our R/T Scat Pack car but much activity above and below this sweet-spot.  The SRT Hellcat Demon is a widebody track-attack special that goes so hardcore that it loses all seats except for the driver.  And the new Challenger GT offers AWD as a first for any pony-car.

But our Challenger is near-perfect just as it is.  The latest design tweaks bring LED daytime running lights that run amber inner lamps to complement the LED angel eyes and LED brake lights around back.  Luckily, Dodge lets you turn off the amber DRLs in the Uconnect menu.

TorRed exterior and a performance aero package combine forces with the Brembo big brake kit and fender badges to make this Challenger a real menace on the streets.  Even without the Hellcat's snarling emblem, folks beside you at any traffic light will know this is the big 6.4-liter V8.  This man-eater of an engine has some of the best sound from any motor on the market at any price.  It is uniquely seductive and vaguely erotic to hear this engine's deep, baritone burble as it becomes a meaty tenor bellow at redline.

 

HD Drive Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtI_iQyrqAw

The exterior design of the Challenger is feeling a bit less-fresh than the new Camaro and 2018 Mustang -- simply due to how familiar we all are with the classic shapes and proportions of the car.

What are those?  An impossibly long hood and bluff nose that is chopped vertically right ahead of the front axle.  A super shallow glasshouse for the cabin looks miniscule from the outside: with nearly 3:1 ratios for the painted bodywork versus the black glass up top.  Surprisingly, visibility is decent from inside.

These classic lines have a new allure and level of intrigue to the driver.  After a few days behind the wheel of Challenger R/T Scat, you'd love this car even if it looked like a Prius outside.  It is that macho and mean and cool behind the wheel.

Cool enough to make you find new details to love.  The LED brake lights are just slim horizontal lines, while and contrast-black trunk spoiler helps match the lower chin splitter in front for boosting performance credentials.

INTERIOR

The cabin of the Challenger R/T is huge and hugely comfortable.  As one of the largest coupes in all of automobile-dom, there is an immense sense of width and roominess that are totally absent in Camaro or Mustang.  Those cars are a cool two sizes smaller -- for seats especially!  The front thrones are the performance-bolstered ones with tall shoulder support and great overall adjustability.  Except, it should be said, for the headrests.

Perhaps due to our reclined drive position, or perhaps simply by design, the Challenger's headrest is not super helpful.  It does not adjust besides up and down, and is always too far back to support your head or neck while in normal driving.  This, again, is in sharp contrast to the Mustang's too-angled headrest than is perhaps more irritating.

Beyond that, the drive position of Challenger is insanely cool and laid-back.  You can barely believe there is so much power on offer as you cruise in such comfort.  The ride is smooth and yet also crisp and controlled versus base Challengers.   The frameless doors versus Charger does add a bit of wind noise at high speeds, but is perhaps worth it for the coolness of such a low roofline.

From outside, you think there would be no room for back seaters.  But the glasshouse is deceptive: check out the giant C-pillar and back glass!  Hiding serious space back there, indeed.  Three seatbelts and real legroom make this a world larger and more usable than any rivals.  Same goes for the trunk.  Perhaps eight golf bags!?  It is simply gigantic.  A nice benefit from the legacy lines inherited from the Challenger's of the late 1960s!

The ever-present engine and exhaust note is your main reminder that this car is no soft-shoe -- but a hardcore freighttrain of a machine on throttle!

PERFORMANCE

Here's the thing with Challenger.  You have to learn to drive it fast.

  1. You have to realize that you can spin the back tires any time, any second you want to.  Once you get familiar with the easy-spinning back tires and the optional eight-speed automatic's Sport-mode drive manners, you have passed step one.  You learn that your right foot literally could sneeze you into a new set of Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires -- that afternoon.  The Challenger will let you spin the back wheels as much as you want in a straight line.
  2. Step two is learning how the car does donuts and breaks traction.  You'll need some space for this -- regular roads make this a risky pasttime when any other cars or curbs are around.  The hyper-effective ESC system has a Sport setting in addition to its full off setting.  So amble around a corner with a bit of lock on and hit the gas.  The rear end comes wide in precise increments while ABS pulses to try and point you straight again.  It is a smooth flow and one that makes you look like a great driver.
  3. Step three.  You have to learn the feel of the Challenger's 'drift moment' because otherwise you will wimp out around actual fast corners.   You will go too easy on the car because it feels slightly scary to newcomers. So much power has to be managed.  This is hugely different versus 99-percent of cars that can be floored at all times in most weather.  To give the Challenger more than 60-percent throttle, you have to be past step three of our little process.
  4. Step four: PUSH IT!  Once you know how monstrous the power of this HEMI is, know how it feels breaking grip, and know how its traction is around drifty corners... you are ready.

Pushing the Challenger means both hands on the wheel.  You glide into the throttle and let it sing out its max power near the top of the rev band.  Big brake input to slow the car ahead of corners, thread it around the bends on half-gas, and then boot the pedal to the floor on corner exit.

Our first few times driving Challenger over the years didn't give time to know the car, and do the silly steps above.  So it felt wilder than a prairie stampede.

More time in the car shows its great steering, truly superb automatic transmission, bitey brakes and controlled body movements.  This is a FAST and FUN car when you know how to tame the bull.  Check the drive video above to really see the Challenger pushed as hard as we dared on a public -- albeit disused -- road.   The corners of my secret street are a bit like a road course.  And feel like the Nurburgring's 'Green Hell' nickname once all the trees are passing in a heavenly blur.

PRICING

BEST part of this Challenger?  Its engine!

Second best?  The price.   The R/T Scat Pack adds a few grand over the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 -- but is dynamite value for the jump from 370 to 485 ponies.  Entry price is $38,990 with destination charge included.  We added just two options: the $1400 automatic trasmission and $795 upgrade to nav for the Challenger's giant touchscreen.  Out the door, the test car is priced at $41,185.

SUMMARY

How all-powerful do you want to feel every time you drive?

That is the question you have to ask when spending $40k on a machine that is less life-changing than this Challenger.

We became a giddy schoolgirl every time this V8 roared to life.  A sneak preview of how amazing it feels and sounds at full throttle!

A week with the car shows that Challenger is indeed trustworthy in fast corners.  That it does offer space and comfort no Camaro or Mustang can dream of.  But most of all: that this is a musclecar that takes actual muscle to master.   We absolutely adore the Scat Pack for all this and more.

 

About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine.He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.